The conversation: Does restorative justice work? Yes!
May 30, 2011
The Ministry of Justice is considering increasing the use of restorative justice – in which offenders are encouraged to meet their victims – as part of its forthcoming green paper on criminal justice reform. Oliver Laughland brings together 34-year-old Reggie Aitchison, a prolific offender and drug user from Widnes, Cheshire, and 72-year-old grandmother, Kathleen, whose house he burgled, to discuss their experience of going through the restorative justice process and their reflections on the crime.
Reggie Aitchison: My recollection of that day is going into the town centre to do some shoplifting to fund my drug habit. We got through about five runs until the security guards had had enough and we couldn't get in any shops. We were making our way back and it was only then, on the way past [Kathleen's house] when the window was open, it was an opportunity. I climbed through. All I was looking for was something quick to sell, you know, or money, gold, that type of stuff. Kathleen turned up so I opened the front door and darted out through fear of getting caught. I knew what would happen if I got caught. I'd go to prison and I'd be rattling [detox] so I darted. That day I was under the influence of alcohol, crack cocaine and diazepam.
Kathleen: When I came home I tried the front door key but I couldn't get in – then you came out. I tried to grip you but I couldn't and you ran off. Upstairs was an absolute mess. I phoned the bobbies who came. Then somebody came out to see if I was all right, did I need somebody to talk to? At the time I didn't, all my insides felt just like clockwork. But I was there [at home] for one or two days and I just didn't feel safe. I kept turning round [thinking someone was there] and when I went to bed, being on my own, I was listening for noises. My granddaughter lives across the road so I moved in with her for a few weeks and then I went back to my house but I still didn't feel secure. So I left her and I went into private accommodation, but I still had that fear. I went to the doctor and he gave me tablets. I was really angry that you'd invaded my privacy.